On the Third Day of Christmas we bring you Claire Walker, Will Johnson, Tim Gardiner



Needles Gathering

After Grandmother’s arrival – a crisp footfall
on Christmas Eve – my sister and I lay awake
in our twin beds. Turning our heads,
we faced each other, smirked at her voice
rising from the dining room below; stuffed
heads into feathered pillows
to mute our laughter at her shrill voice,
when we should have been sleeping.

Grandmother sat, exclaimed how nice the presents were. Mum,
who’d waded through crowded shopping centre Saturdays,
carefully loaded them into stockings.
Kneeling at the tree, she found prickled points
of dropped needles gathering in the carpet,
as Grandmother asked for sherry.
Mum battled to smooth her frown while, upstairs,
my sister and I picked each other’s smiles out in the dark.


Claire Walker‘s poetry has been published in magazines, anthologies and websites including The Interpreter’s House, Ink Sweat and Tears, Prole, and And Other Poems. Her first pamphlet, The Girl Who Grew Into a Crocodile, is published by V. Press.  Her website is https://clairewalkerpoetry.com


What Wish

What wish if not this wish?

That snow is terrible
only in its fall;
that overnight
the sky will clear
and leave the altered earth
That in some warm
neglected stall,
new life can grow;
that winter’s sleep
will stir to birth,
rouse shepherds,
frankincense and myrrh,
speak words
to startle Herods,
sear the dark.

What wish if not this wish?

What hope?


Will Johnson lives in Cardiff. His publications include poems in Poetry Wales, The SHop, Agenda and Magma, and two verse translations from the Sanskrit in the Oxford World’s Classics series (https://www.amazon.co.uk/Recognition-Sakuntala-Oxford-Worlds-Classics/dp/0199540608).






Christmas Eve
just one more
childhood lie

empty high chair
a full stocking
by the fire


Dr Tim Gardiner is an ecologist, poet and children’s author. His first collection of poetry, Wilderness, was published by Brambleby Books in 2015 and his debut children’s book, The Voyage of the Queen Bee, was published by the Bumblebee Conservation Trust in 2016.

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On the Second Day of Christmas we bring you Elisabeth Sennitt Clough and Morgaine Merch Lleuad



The Homewrecker and His Pun

She has high hopes for her white sauce
this Christmas. The roux glistens
from the wash and slap of milk,
as she lightens it a ladle at a time.

Her veins grow taut on her forearm
as she beats the buttery yellow mixture.
Droplets hit her skin and form small crusts
among archipelagos of freckles.

She’s positioned her radio by the stove
and between songs, the cartoon
her daughter’s watching in the living room
competes with the early morning announcer:

on the first Christmas Day, the angels
promised peace and good will on Earth.
She downs another sherry, her hand
less steady on the wooden spoon.

Her husband comes in, flushed from his walk,
a sprig of mistletoe tucked in his cap.
Though his affair happened last Christmas,
her eyes stiffen: you whore of a man.

He blames the drink for shifting her
into the sickness of every woman
he wants to leave behind. She doesn’t make it
to dinner and their child is left to wonder why

when she’s seen the béchamel burnt to flakes
in the pan, her father tells her don’t go
in the bathroom because your mother’s been
at the sauce and hurled it all over the floor.




Elisabeth Sennitt Clough was born in Ely and now lives in Norfolk with her husband and three children. Her pamphlet Glass was a winner in the Paper Swans inaugural pamphlet competition and her debut collection, Sightings, is forthcoming from Pindrop Press. Her poems have appeared in The Rialto, Mslexia, Magma, Stand, I,S&T, and The Cannons’ Mouth. www.elisabethsennittclough.co.uk





I put the pretty comb into my hair, but my cheeks
are still apples too long in my basket – too dry,
too slackened, darkened and

bruised  It takes seven of them to paint me, to glaze and tighten
with eggwhite and witchhazel, and when I am sealed inside
my glassine coffin, perhaps I will be pale and

almost beautiful again.




Morgaine Merch Lleuad is a poet/novelist, and lectures in poetry and creative writing at Exeter University and the OU, respectively.  Her poetry has been published in various magazines, including Orbis, The Interpreter’s House, Iota, Ink Sweat & Tears and The Frogmore Papers. Twitter: @bagpussbotherer

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On the First Day of Christmas we bring you Jane Lovell and Angela Topping



Flying with Larus minutus

An unwanted journey,
return to a dark town in the hill country,
a room where you were born.
And she’s still there,
same wallpaper, same carpets, that
heaving, scratching dog.

I peer out for a sign.
Lights fly out from the gloom.
The only indication that day has begun,
a half-dreamt  glimpse of gusting cloud.

We are ready for this:
an 8lb turkey on the parcel shelf,
groceries and sherry in the boot.

High above the motorway, buffeted but resolute,
Larus minutus surfs the plunging sky
unaware of urgency, the glare of tail-lights,
its focus the last spiralling beetles.

The sunroof clicks and hums.
There comes a time.
I whisper my goodbyes but you are occupied,
twiddling the radio…the traffic news…the weather.

Through dark-dawn winterlight, I rise,
re-emerge at thirty feet,
occupy this oblivious, feathered vessel,
the barrel-chested cockpit.

My thin fingers reach into wind-riffled wings,
brace against the turbulence beneath.

The controls are simple:
rise, swoop, swerve, descend.
A tuner offers squawk and scold through
to extended screech.
On a red screen, summer’s last remaining insects
bobble and fizz.

There is no going back.
We are heading east towards the Thames in search
of twisting elver, ragworm, fry of bass and shiner.
We shall venture further, to the haunt of kittiwakes,
disorientating mists.

There is no going back.
The wind is westerly, and strong.
Watch me fly the wind, shape of an angel.


Jane Lovell is the Poetry Society Stanza Rep for Warwickshire. She has had work published in a number of anthologies and journals including Agenda, Poetry Wales, Envoi, the North, Dark Mountain, Zoomorphic, Mslexia and New Welsh Review. She won the Flambard Prize in 2015 and, this year, was shortlisted for the Basil Bunting Prize and named as runner up for the 2016 Wisehouse and Silver Wyvern awards.

The Christmas Loaf

is a year in the making
is stuffed with good things
raisins and ginger
cinnamon and nutmeg
almonds and clove.

is long in the kneading
pummelled and rolled
folded and pummelled again
until yeast is blended
and can begin its work.

is cosseted in its proving
kept by the radiator
tucked into its bowl
with a snowy tea towel,
given time to grow.

is aromatic in its baking
turning golden in the oven.
Is brought to the table,
broken between us
shared and is gone.


Angela Topping‘s eighth collection, The Five Petals of Elderflower is just out from Red Squirrel Press. Her work has been published and anthologised widely. Further information can be found here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Angela_Topping

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Jessica Mookherjee reviews ‘Glass’ by Elisabeth Sennitt Clough





Glass is Elisabeth Sennitt Clough’s first collection and she immediately draws us into a bleak, desolate world, with open skies, dark earth, shame and secrets.

She is a new voice rising from the Fens, from a desolate murky landscape, she shines with the sharp glint of steel and glass. Sennitt Clough’s skill is to keep holding you down into her poems as you read them. Her skill displays the nature of the fen. The soil of the poetry goes deeper then you dare, takes you insistently downward and it’s effect is mesmerising, uncomfortable and powerful.

Her first poem Sightings is full with rich colours, internal rhyme and we understand this is the “rarest of gifts”, a totem of the poet, a peacock, a strange bird inside a family, trying to understand it’s own distorted reflection and escape. Be we can’t flee the horror of the “slow slow grab”. She tells us “our home was full of hooks”.

It is satisfying that Sennitt Clough keeps us located and rooted to a place. A recurrent theme in her collection is machinery. In The Yard at Waterside we find “vinegar sharpness” and a “pox of rust” and we walk with her into the machinery of the past. As we travel through sharp images, we sense we are colluding, sometimes knowingly. She has us questioning what is myth and truth. Her use of couplets is interesting – she uses them to control the flood of emotions and typically loosens them towards the end of her poems where they merge with a bigger chaos – or is it freedom?

Another theme recurrent in Glass is curiosity and how this is controlled. Green-Eyed is a great example of both the control and wildness in her poetry. She gives us lenses with a “mutation in her eyes”. One of the most moving poems of this collection (and there are many) is My Father’s Coat, where the daughter dresses in the magic of her father into a woven legend of strangeness.

The Collection is in three parts, each with a layer of distortion and revelation. She shows us the murk of the fens, the truth behind the fairy tales. In the excellent Codes of Behaviour in a Canbridgeshire Village the sagging and oozing takes on it’s own personality, you want to stop looking, stop reading – but you can’t. Her S sounds in the poem are like a hissing, this poem hurts.

She gives us motifs of water spilling into earth, machinery that tries to control by brutalising, the need to look deeper are all engineered to remarkable effect in this collection. She manages with skill to use long lines in poems such as Potato Season to echo the big Norfolk skies.

In Fidget words like “wrist flicks” have a great effect showing us anger and loss of control and the confessional Glass Collar where the poet writes that revelation can be it’s own prison.

This collection stays with you, seeps into you with all the bleakness of the Fens. It also cries out to the reader, holds us in it’s looking glass. It does what poetry is meant to do – makes you clutch it to your chest and cry while not knowing why because the poet is unsentimental, brutal, sharp and full of wild colours.



Order your copy of Glass by Elisabeth Sennitt Clough from PaperSwans Press, here: http://paperswans.co.uk/glass/


Jessica Mookherjee has a background in Biological Anthropology and public health research. She was shortlisted for the Fairacre first pamphlet competition in 2016.  Her work has been published regularly and widely in publications such as The Interpreter’s House, Brittle Star, Tears in the Fence among many others.  Her pamphlet – The Swell was published by Telltale this Autumn.


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Ian Mullins




top and search –
patrolling winds
shake down trees


abstract oak –
a chocolate spoon
hot-melts in milk


asthmatic head cold –
your sneezes
gasp for breath


crow ascending –
lung shadow
spreads its wings




Ian Mullins bails out from Liverpool, England. The collection Laughter In The Shape Of A Guitar is available from UB(undergroundbooks.org). He has also published poems and stories with Presence, 50 Haikus, Hellfire Crossroads, Neon, and many more.

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David Roberts



#3 (In Watermelon Sugar)


When the tigers were in bloom, the tigers helped me

with my arithmetic. I threw it away, so

not even time

could find it, and drank


made from forgotten things. That’s what we did


in those days. When the last tiger

was killed

the birds refused to fly

over the abandoned bridge. In regular glass

at the bottom of whisky

we spent a lot of time

by ourselves. Tomorrow the sun

would be black, soundless.



David Roberts is a writer, poet, artist and filmmaker who currently lives in Sheffield. His short fiction has appeared at Sein und Werden and Hoax amongst other places.  Twitter: @djohnroberts



Author’s note: This is part of an ongoing sequence, the aim of which is to distill or translate each of Richard Brautigan’s novels into a poem. Phrases have been found whole or spliced together before being shaped into poems.

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Fiona Cartwright




Mrs Darwin’s Egg

I break the egg over the kitchen table. The yolk spills out
on the china plate like gorse in snow.

Outside the snow still falls, blindfolding the brambles.
I put myself in the space between one snowflake and the next.

Soon I will explode the way the gorse pods do,
dried out in the late summer sun.

In he comes. He brings me ideas
as the tern on the shingle spit

brings fish to his mate; the gift of a slip
shining silver in a golden sun.

We dissect a dogfish together on the kitchen table,
taking the parasites from the stomach

while the apples stare from their earthenware bowl.
We count one hundred before the vicar comes.

I place my hand in his, and think myself an explorer too,
‘til I rise, and the weight of his child pulls me down.




Fiona Cartwright lives in Surrey and is a poet, post-doctoral ecologist, and mother of two. Her work has been published in various places, including Mslexia and Butcher’s Dog, and shortlisted for the 2014 Poetry School/Pighog Press pamphlet competition.

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